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Relaxing on the Rhone - a river cruise virgin's trip report.

Relaxing on the Rhone - a river cruise virgin's trip report.

Old Jun 7th, 2016, 02:26 AM
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Posts: 53,057
thanks again, Huggy.

I will certainly bring it to DH's attention to see if it appeals to him.
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2016, 04:55 AM
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Time to go home.

Before the Captain's dinner we had a meeting that no-one looks forward to - the one where you discuss or rather are told about the arrangements for leaving the boat the following day. We would be in the first group and we were instructed to have our luggage outside our cabins no later than 8 am for a 9am departure. While we were having breakfast, the crew would take the luggage out and have it by the coach and when it was time to leave, we would identify it and only then would it go into the luggage compartment on the bus. Each group had a coloured tag to put on their bags, with your name and departure point -for us it was Avignon TGV. Hopefully failsafe!

BTW at this meeting we were remained that if we wanted to leave tips for the crew or the Riviera team, there were envelopes which we could use and then leave at reception; the tips would be divided between the whole crew so that the less visible crew members like the chefs and the sailors wouldn't miss out. So much fairer than the bar staff or favourite waiters getting preferential treatment, though I suspect that some do still benefit from the odd €10 note slipped into their pockets.

So after another excellent breakfast [at which I confess to eating more than I had the rest of the week as we didn't really know when we'd be able to eat again] we did an "idiot check" of our cabin, and sadly went up on deck to say our farewells to the crew. Alex our cruise director was coming back with us to London, so we would have his help with catching the TGV and transferring onto the TGV at Lille, but apart from that, we'd be unlikely to see any of them again so no more chances to practice our Bulgarian at least for a while.

The coach transfer to Avignon took only 10 minutes and when we arrived we discovered that our TGV was running 20 mins late so we had plenty of time for a coffee and a bit of last minute shopping. I spent a few of my last €s on some nice chocs from the shop and was engaged in conversation by the assistant who told me all about her boyfriend in Bristol; when I said I'd been to university there [a very long time ago] she was thrilled and we only stopped chatting when she needed to serve some more customers.

Like the other TGV stations, there are signs to show you where to stand to board your carriage so we moved up to the front to be in the right place for Voiture 8; up that end of the complex were work desks with power points and USB jacks - very useful. We had to ignore the first train to come in - the non-stop from Avignon to Paris [in less than 3 hours!] - and then be ready to get onto our train quickly as the scheduled stop was only 3 minutes. Luckily no-one was getting off and we piled on, turning right into the correct part of the carriage for our seats, only to find that tho only had all the luggage space gone, but there were no vacant seats! of course, there were more people getting on behind us, so we had to move through the carriage and eventually GF and I grabbed the first empty seats we could find and squeezed into them with our bags, but these seats were claimed by some other people [who also kept moving til they found the first empty ones, and so on and so forth.

This would all have worked, more or less, had it not been for 2 of our cruise party insisting on sitting in their assigned seats so a domino effect ensued and we all had to move round, which not everyone did with good grace, in particular the people sitting in the seats which should have been occupied by our travelling companions, V&C who it turned out had wanted to sit with their "friends", and those sitting in our seats, who i think had just grabbed the first vacant ones and hoped for the best.

Finally, after a lot of huffing and puffing, and a good deal of gallic muttering, [and as we discovered, petty harassment of V&C by the people sitting opposite them] we were all installed in our seats and found places for the luggage. Peace reigned, more or less, though a further international incident was narrowly averted when the "friends" that the original miscreants had wanted to sit with moved seats to sit at the back of the carriage with their amis, at which C, pleased to be free of the glares and "inadvertent kicks" from these charmers cried out hurray, only to be roundly condemned by the Brits from the cruise who had caused the problems originally, and to earn herself the opprobrium of the Belgian lady sitting opposite me who was clearly less than impressed. GF and I decided to play dumb [not hard for me] and gradually everyone settled back down and just went back to worrying about how late the train was.

The journey to Lille was due to take nearly 4 hours with a 1 ½ hour wait for the Eurostar [which we had ear-marked for moules frites should we be able to find them on the station] but the train lost more and more time, until we arrived in Lille with only 20 mins to spare, which the conductor had assured us was sufficient to change trains.

What of course he had not allowed for was the fact that before boarding the Eurostar, we would have to clear 2 lots of passport checks and security [and can someone tell me why it's necessary to lift heavy luggage up onto a security belt for the Eurostar - could they not design one that is at floor level so that people can just wheel it on?] Anyway, with a little help from their friends everyone negotiated these obstacles, and we were down on the platform in time to find the right place for boarding the Eurostar, which we were able to do in double-quick time, thanks to the fact that there was for once plenty of room in the luggage area, possibly because the train was only half full.

Watches were moved back an hour, and I spent a few more spare €s on beer and toasted sandwiches for me and GF, which were surprisingly good. We had decided that if the train stopped there we would get off at Ebbsfleet and get a cab back to GF's house which in theory is only 30 mins drive away, but we had failed to allow for the M20/M25 traffic and it took more than an hour. However it was nice to be back on home turf, and even nicer to be able to sit in her lovely garden and have a proper cup of tea.

So that was the end of my cruising adventure.

Am I glad I went? Yes.

Would I go again? Possibly.

Would I use the TGV again? another possibly, though I might splash out on first class to avoid the luggage/space problems.

Would I recommend Riviera? Definitely. They were very well organised, everything went like clockwork, and any problems [which were few] were immediately addressed. If you want a river cruise, it would be well worth looking at what they have to offer.
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2016, 11:24 PM
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Great tour report, I am bookmarking for a possible river cruise in future.
Scootoir is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2016, 10:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Hello Ann:

I just found this. I always love your trip reports, and this one did not disappoint. Many thanks .

I have never thought of a river cruise, but a friends Mum and Dad (late 60s) did the Douro river cruises, and loved it. I thought of bringing my older sisters, as I think it would work for them as they both have mobility issues (one has had a hip replacement and one had a serious femur leg brake last year). From everything I am reading in your report, I think a river cruise would work for them.

BTW, last year I did the Eurostar to Paris. I live in Blackheath (SE London) and it was so wonderful to go to and from Ebbsfleet as opposed to London terminal. I was home in 30 minutes.

Again, thank you for the report and the detail.

Best regards ... Ger
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Old Jun 11th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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that's very kind, Ger. BTW Ebbsfleet didn't exist when we lived in Kent so it never occurred to me to get off there until my GF mentioned it. if we were going from her house again [assuming she was prepared to travel with me again!] I would suggest doing from there as it's a lot easier than getting up to St Pancras [though sadly no champagne bar]

anyway I hope that it proves useful to those, like me, who have no idea what river cruises are like.

I'm glad too that I managed to complete my TR so quickly [for me at any rate] - now back to Cuba to see if I can make any progress there!
annhig is offline  
Old Jul 9th, 2016, 09:31 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Just received an email from Emerald Waterways that they have dropped their single supplement for 2016 cruises. https://www.emeraldwaterways.com/spe...ers/all-offers
Scootoir is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2016, 02:13 AM
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that's good news, Scootoir. Someone was mentioning on another thread that they couldn't afford one because of the single supplement so if I find that again, I will mention it.
annhig is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2016, 06:17 PM
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I was thinking it was on this thread but didn't look. I'll search when I have some time.
Scootoir is offline  
Old Dec 16th, 2018, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Thanks for your delightful TR, annhig! I found your comments about the Pont du Gard and cloister of the cathedral in Arles particularly helpful. Many wishes for happy travels in the future!
kja is offline  
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